The National Ignition Facility (NIF), or “What Would We Do Without The Big Picture Blog?”

If you’re not reading Boston Globe”s The Big Picture blog, I have to say that you are depriving your mind of some pretty intense and without fail breathtaking imagery.  One pretty unbelievable example is this post from the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is better known as the place on the planet with the most powerful laser.  The NIF has a system of 192 beams that are focused onto a 2mm-ish target, applying a megajoule onto that target.

Yeah.  That’s the energy of 10,000 100W lamps in one second.

I have four images of the 27 posted on the Big Picture Blog’s NIF post, which I implore you to visit.  I hope that someone reading the website will visit this post and get excited about the future of photon science, because that is what places like The Big Picture are all about – piquing interest.

I grabbed the captions for each image too – you must have the captions!

Ok, go.  No, RUN, over to The Big Picture Blog.

Laser to Probe the Universe’s Secrets


The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is about to fire a UV laser with a power of about 500 trillion watts at a tiny piece of iron.  What an amazing figure!  Would you be surprised to know that this technology also helps nuclear engineers test nuclear warheads?  Of course you wouldn’t.  The technology can also help us learn how to create commercial fusion power stations, too.  Score one for sustainability AND nuclear weapons, I guess.

An astronomer at UC Berkeley, Ramond Jeanloz, is using the laser technology to create the conditions that exist inside Jupiter and other large planets – what they assume the conditions are like, at least – which are expected to be at least a thousand times greater than those on Earth.  We really don’t know what these conditions are like because the planets are unexplored – but by the intense heat that will be generated by the laser should tell scientists how these conditions might exist.

500 trillion watts is just – it’s an almost unimaginable power figure.  I wish I could see that laser fire!

Thanks, Gizmodo and New Scientist!